Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the Henge of Keltria?
The Henge of Keltria is a non-profit religious organization dedicated to the positive, life affirming spiritual path of Neopagan Druidism. We call it Keltrian Druidism. The Henge of Keltria exists to provide information and training to those interested in Keltrian Druidism and to promote Celtic Earth-based religions.
What are the definitions of "Neopagan" and "Druidism"?
The word Pagan is generally used to describe pre-Christian religions that existed throughout the Western world. `Neo' means new, so Neopagan literally means "New Pagan." The term "Neopagan" is used to describe people who are part of the revival of some of the beliefs and practices of those pre-Christian religions. Neopagans often drop the prefix and just call themselves Pagans. Druidism is our modern adaptation of ancient Celtic religion. The priests of the ancient Celts were called Druids.
Who were the Druids?
The word Druid may derive from an IndoEuropean word Drus, meaning "oak," and the IndoEuropean wid, meaning "to know." Literally, Druid means "to know the oak." The ancient Druids did not have many buildings for worship. The classical writers noted that the Druids' preferred sanctuaries were forest clearings. Although the Celts existed throughout much of Europe, the Druids were known to exist only in what is called the latter Celtic range. This area is basically Gaul and the British Isles. The priestly class of these Celts were on an equal level with nobility. They included the Druids (priests), Bards (poets and musicians), and Seers (diviners). The Druids were held above Bards and Seers, and according to Caesar, had authority in peace and war.The Druids met in caves, deep in the woods, and in buildings for study and training that could last as long as 20 years. All the Druidic teachings were orally transmitted, so little is known about their teachings.
How do we know about the Druids?
Knowledge of the Druids, and the ancient Celts in general, is found from direct archaeological evidence, from the writings of classical authors in Greece and Rome, and from folklore transcribed by 12 C. Christian scribes and scholars.
Was Stonehenge built by the Druids?
No. The Celts didn't expand into Britain until between the 5th to 3rd C. BCE. Stonehenge was completed by about 1600 BCE. The Druids, however, did have enough astronomical knowledge to realize the significance of Stonehenge. They may have used Stonehenge, at least for observational purposes, although there is no clear evidence to support this.
Was sacrifice practiced by the Druids?
The ancient Celts practiced sacrifice. It was written that the Druids were required to be present for all public sacrifices. Caesar described huge wickerworks that were filled with grains, animals, and humans and then burned. Other classical writers described sacrifice by stabbing and impaling. There has been a wide range of opinion about sacrifice and its significance to the Druids. Caesar was attempting to show the brutality of the Celts, while some scholars compare these sacrifices to modern executions. The answer probably lies somewhere between these two. The ancient Celts believed strongly reincarnation. They did not fear death as most people in our culture do, because they knew that their souls would live again in another body. The Celts were described as having used criminals and political prisoners for sacrifice whenever possible. In the cultural context of the ancient Celtic people, sacrifice may have been the best possible treatment for these people.
Do the Keltrian Druids practice human or animal sacrifice?
No, we don't. Over the centuries, religious thought has evolved. During the time of the ancient Druids, blood sacrifice was seen as a powerful way of contacting the Gods. Today we recognize blood as a symbol representing the power that exists within all of us. In modern practice, we replace blood sacrifice with another representation of our power. We use grain, herbs, a small piece of handiwork, or other positive representation of our devotion to the Gods.
Explain some aspects of Celtic belief that you emulate in your modern practices.
We know very little about the specific religious practices of the Celtic peoples. We have adopted the use of many Celtic Dieties that we know about through the study of mythology. Our rituals celebrate the cycles of life and the year. With the changing of the seasons, we choose different Gods that best represent the things we associate with that season.
We have also adapted many Celtic symbols to our religion. We believe that these symbols helped trigger the connection the Celts felt between themselves and the Gods, and that it can do the same for us. For example, the Celts placed great importance in the number three. We have developed many associations of threes. We worship and revere the Gods, Ancestors and Nature Spirits. We associate them with the realms of Sky, Sea and Land. We also associate them with the three aspects of our being: Spirit, Mind and Body.
Another example: The only detailed account of ritual was written by the Roman Author Pliny the Elder. He described the gathering of mistletoe which was found growing on an oak tree. A Druid, dressed in white, cut the mistletoe using a sickle and allowed it to fall on to a white piece of cloth. This ritual took place on the 6th night after the new moon. From this account, we see that the Druids held some importance to the color white, and used a sickle. We prefer white robes for our clergy in ritual and have adopted the sickle for our use. We also set aside the 6th night of the moon for our Mistletoe Rite.
What is the Keltrian view of Deity?
We see Deity in many different aspects, both male and female. These different aspects of Deity each represent different aspects of life, nature and the seasons.
We use appropriate aspects of Deity in rituals and in our lives to help us maintain contact. The idea that these aspects of Deity are separate from each other is called polytheism (many Gods). The idea that these aspects are part of a larger whole (often called the unmanifest and sometimes God) is called pan-polytheism. In Keltrian Druidism, we see both polytheism and pan-polytheism as valid views of Deity.
We believe that Deity exists in all living things. We see each human, animal and plant as a unique expres-sion of the Divine. Some Druids extend this view to what are normally considered inanimate objects such as wells, rivers, and mountains. They see Divinity in many places such as mountains, rivers, and the wind. This idea, that inanimate objects are in some way living is called animism. Keltrian Druids are animistic at least to the level where they see the Divine within plant life.
What are the other beliefs of Keltrian Druidism?
The following set of statements encompass the major points of our values and worldview:
How do you worship?
Since we consider ourselves a nature religion, the ideal place for our rituals is outdoors, preferably in the woods or another place away from cities and `civilization'. This is not always practical, especially during winter, so we worship wherever it is convenient. The purpose of our rituals is to celebrate the Divine and have communion with the Gods and each other. We do this mainly through meditation, prayer and invocation of the Gods, Ancestors and Nature Spirits.
Most of our rituals are done around a sacred fire (or sacred candles for indoor rituals). Our rituals involve the participation of everyone in attendance. We distribute the ritual functions among several people, rather than have everything done by a priest and priestess. Our rituals also involve the participants through a good deal of singing and dancing.
When do you worship?
Instead of worshipping according to the modern calendar, we choose our times of worship according to the cycles of the Sun and Moon.
We celebrate two lunar rites. They are called the Mistletoe Rite and the Vervain Rite. As mentioned before, the ancient Druids collected mistletoe on the 6th night of the moon (roughly the first quarter). Since mistletoe was known as `all heal,' one of the themes of this rite is healing. This theme extends to healing of our community, through a sharing of food and drink at the rite. The Sun and Moon are in a position of eqilibrium at this time, so we also see this as a time of balance. This is when we seek to find balance in our lives.
Our other lunar rite is the Vervain Rite. The time of this rite was also chosen from classical descriptions of ancient Druidic practices. It was written that vervain was gathered when neither sun nor moon were in the sky. This occurs sometime during each night, except when the moon is full. We generally celebrate this around the 3rd quarter. This gives ample time for the rite during the evening hours. It also places this rite opposite the Mistletoe Rite in the lunar cycle. Vervain is said to be of aid in working magic. Thus, the Vervain Rite is our time for working magic. The purpose of magic in a Druidic sense is more like prayer. We work magic to help effect change in our lives. Druidic magic may involve contemplation, meditation, ritual or ecstatic dance.
We also celebrate 8 holidays throughout the year. These holidays originally come from two separate cultures. The solstices and equinoxes, which celebrate the cycle of the sun, came from one culture, and the `cross-quarters,' which mark the agricultural and pastoral seasons of the Earth, came from another. The cross-quarter feasts are: : Samhain (Nov. 1), Imbolc (Feb. 1), Beltaine (May 1), and Lughnasadh (Aug. 1). The solar holidays were adopted by the Celts, and all 8 are celebrated by Keltrian Druids. In our modern rites, we also relate the cycle of the year to the cycle of our lives. We choose a specific God and Goddess (Patron and Matron) to honor at each rite.These figures each represent a different aspect of our lives, from youth to vitality to old age, wisdom, and finally death. As the year gets older, the Patron and Matron age as well.
How can I find out about the Henge of Keltria?
The Henge of Keltria provides resources including an Introduction to the Henge of Keltria, The Henge of Keltria Book of Ritual, a correspondence course for members of the Henge, and this pamphlet. If you would like to explore Keltrian Druidism further, write to us at:
Henge of Keltria
Please enclose a S.A.S.E with your request.